Making the Ubuntu Experience What It Should Be

Zinc is an Ubuntu-based Linux distribution that goes beyond the idea of simply mixing in an alternative desktop environment. Zinc’s developers have gone under the hood, tinkered, tweaked, and fiddled with some of the fundamental Ubuntu functionality, and come up with an experience that challenges users to rethink exactly what Ubuntu can be.

While users love Ubuntu for its stability, many find the user experience to be somewhat underwhelming. If that sounds like you, Zinc just might be the distro that brings you back.

What Makes Zinc Linux So Special?

Zinc is based on the latest long-term support (LTS) version of Ubuntu. XFCE serves as the distribution’s default desktop environment. Now, you might be thinking to yourself, “If I want Ubuntu with XFCE, I can just download the official Xubuntu remix.” And, if that’s all you want, you would be right. The thing is, though, Zinc is much more than just a stock copy of Ubuntu running XFCE.

Zinc’s creators have added several standout improvements such as:

  • Multipurpose file management apps
  • Integrated Linux AppImage support
  • Nala custom software package manager
  • deb-get package installer
  • BTRFS default file system
  • Isolated and compressed home partition

The XFCE desktop itself, of course, is also customized to provide intuitive functionality without getting in the way of your work. The application launcher is on the left edge of the top bar. The clock resides in the center, and you can access several system utilities and user functions to the right.

Down the left side of the desktop is another thin panel that holds quick-launch icons and also serves as a taskbar.

Two File Managers, Twice the Power

It might seem like overkill at first, but Zinc comes with two file managers installed. First, you have the standard Thunar file manager, which is the default for XFCE. In addition, the Nemo file manager, originally designed for the Cinnamon desktop environment, is available.

Thunar will work as you would expect any file manager to work. Nemo, however, is preconfigured with a unique two-panel interface. This configuration allows you to open one folder on the left and another on the right. You can then move files back and forth with simple drag-and-drop gestures.

This might not sound like a big deal, but you’ll be surprised by how quickly you find that you can’t live without it once you’ve used it.

Zinc Fully Integrates Linux AppImages

One of the most interesting features of Zinc is the full integration of Linux AppImages. Zinc favors the distro-neutral AppImage format over the hotly contested Snap and Flatpak formats. You can enable support for both of these application formats manually, however.

The first time you run an AppImage, Zinc will open a dialog and ask if you would like to run the app once, or fully integrate it into the system. If you select Run once, the app will run and exit normally with no changes being made to your system.

If you choose Integrate and run, the system will move the application file to a hidden directory in your home directory called .appimage and create an app launcher shortcut automatically.

From that point, you’ll be able to launch the application directly from the app launcher just like you would with any other natively installed app. Each time you run a new AppImage, the process will repeat and the system will collect and organize all of your AppImages in the special directory.

Cutting-Edge Software Management and Updates

In addition to the standard Ubuntu Software Center and the familiar APT package manager, Zinc comes with its own Nala command-line software management app as well as the specialized deb-get installation and update system.

Zinc’s Nala package manager works only from the command line and is more or less an enhanced version of the APT package manager. You can display the rather short list of available commands by typing nala -help at a terminal prompt.

Although originally designed to provide all the functionality of APT, Nala also adds some characteristics that mimic Fedora’s DNF, one of which is parallel downloads to increase installation/update speed.

Don’t worry if you’re not comfortable with the command line. You can also click a special update icon on the right side of the top panel that will automatically open a terminal and trigger Nala to run a full system update.

The deb-get system is a specialized package manager designed to eliminate the sometimes confusing process of adding third-party software repositories—often referred to as PPAs—required to install some software such as web browsers or multimedia editors.

With deb-get, you can install the most common software by simply opening a terminal and issuing an install command. deb-get will then automatically update your system’s PPAs, download the package, and install the software.

Best of all, once you install something, deb-get will include it in your system’s regular update process.

To see a list of software available through deb-get, just open a terminal and type:

deb-get list

If you see something you want to install, enter the following:

deb-get install <package name>

Don’t let all of the options here overwhelm you. You only need to use the different software managers if you want to. If you want simplicity, you can install what you need from Software Center and just allow the system to update when it tells you an update is available. Your system will be just fine without any other intervention.

How to Download and Install Zinc Linux

Zinc is available as an ISO image and is free to download. You can find a copy of the latest version on the official Zinc website.

Download: Zinc Linux

The developer tracks new versions through blog posts. So, if you don’t see the download link, click to open the full view of the latest blog post and you should see a download link at the bottom.

After downloading the ISO, you’ll need to create a bootable USB or DVD from the image. Booting from the image will take you into a live Zinc session where you can preview and explore the system. From there, all you’ll need to do is click the installer icon on the desktop to initiate the installation process.

As you would expect from an Ubuntu-based Linux distro, Zinc will only ask a few quick questions, and then the installer will handle everything for you.

Zinc Can Replace Your Current Daily Driver

With all of its built-in compatibility features, you should have no trouble installing any of your favorite software on your new Zinc system.

Between native software, third-party packages, and AppImages, there’s not much you can’t do with Zinc Linux.

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